Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today Review

originally written by Chris McDonald

Electric Wizard. The name alone conjures up images of billowing weed smoke, strange occult rituals, and Satan taking bong hits. This band’s track record is virtually untouchable, with Come My Fanatics… and Dopethrone in particular being some of my favorite doom recordings ever–and I love me some fucking doom. The outfit’s effortless blend of old-school with new has put many a like-minded act to shame over the last decades or so. Now, three long years after the triumphant return to prominence that was We Live comes Witchcult Today, yet another excellent Wizard album that continues the band’s almost unmatched tradition of excellence in their field.

Witchcult Today is an immense, formidable outing chock full of all the hallmarks of Electric Wizard you know and love. The bluesy riffs are still HUGE, Jus Oborne’s vocals are still bleak and compelling, and the musicianship remains loose and non-linear without ever sounding sloppy. But most importantly, this outfit still knows how to write atmospheric, incredibly heavy stoner-doom as well as anyone in the business. One thing that has always set the “heaviest band in the universe” apart from their contemporaries is that Electric Wizard have never relied solely on their bone-shattering gravity to cover up lazy or undercooked songwriting; they use that positively mammoth sound to augment and enhance the already brilliantly-written riffs and hooks, rather than the other way around. The band has retained their knack for combining crushingly epic riff structures with surprisingly infectious choruses; those found in “Saturnine” and “Torquemada 71” are but a couple of examples of this talent to be found on this album. But despite the inherent catchiness to the compositions, Witchcult Today is not an easily digested listen. The production is fairly primitive given the band’s high profile, adding even more haze and murk to the already oppressive sound, and the long jams that conclude most of the tracks will bore those not willing to get into the groove of the music. These songs don’t have quite the immediate, explosive impact of a song like, say, “Funeropolis” from Dopethrone, and even old fans of the band might find themselves giving this one numerous listens before the songs really stick. With that said, anyone with even a passing interest in doom will find the quality of this album undeniable, despite it having less of an outsider appeal than some of their earlier releases.

“Witchcult Today” and “Dunwich” were great choices as the first two tracks, the latter’s infectious groove and stoned-swagger making for one of the strongest cuts on the disc and a nice (if slight) change of pace from the rest of the album’s sloth-like pacing. “Satanic Rites Of Drugula” completes an excellent trio of opening tracks with an incredibly metal lyrical concept and one of the more diabolical choruses you’ll hear this year. The distorted, ominous riff that opens up “The Chosen Few” really creeps me out for some reason, and Osborn’s vocals on this song are a highlight of the album. Anyone who heard We Live is already familiar with the vocalist’s newly undistorted approach, and it really works wonders in giving emotion and catchiness to the singing. “Saturnine” is the longest and best cut on here, closing the album on a powerful and memorable note with yet another brilliant chorus. The only song that doesn’t really cut the mustard for me is “Black Magic Rituals And Perversions,” a long, mostly ambient piece that is interesting in the beginning but wears out its welcome by the end of its excessive eleven-minute running time. I understand that this track is meant to serve more as an atmospheric interlude, and it serves its purpose to that end fairly well, but its bloated length and poor placement right behind fellow eleven-minute epic (and closing track) “Saturnine” were questionable decisions that I imagine will lead many listeners to merely skip right over it.

Aside from some moderate production complaints (its fairly lo-fi and takes some of the edge off of the riffs at times) it’s hard to really come up with much criticism for Electric Wizard’s latest release. I suppose I could mention some crap about this album sounding a lot like their previous ones, but honestly, who cares? These guys have always been about releasing quality material in the style they do best as opposed to re-inventing the wheel with each outing; in fact, I feel comfortable saying that Electric Wizard may very well be the definitive modern incarnation of Black Sabbath‘s sound and legacy. Witchcult Today is simply more great stuff from a group that has long established itself as one of the best metal bands out there, which means fans and newbies alike need to pick this one up ASAP. The witchcult grows…

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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